Why ‘Ant-Man and The Wasp’ Director Peyton Reed Decided to Gender-Swap Marvel Villain Ghost

The filmmaker wanted an antagonist who fit into the movie’s theme of fathers and daughters

Hannah John-Kamen Ghost ANT-MAN AND THE WASP
Marvel Studios

[Note: Major spoilers ahead for “Ant-Man and The Wasp. Seriously, if you haven’t seen the movie, we recommend not reading further.]

One of the great standouts of “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is the mysterious Ghost, (played excellently by Hannah John-Kamen), a masked, sci-fi-suited fighter who can become intangible — meaning she can pass through walls, go invisible, and so on — and who makes life hell for our heroes. But much like her “quantum phasing” abilities, not everything is as it seems.

We later learn she’s a young woman named Ava Starr, who got her powers as a child after she was exposed to a failed attempt to recreate the technology that makes Ant-Man and the Wasp possible. Now those same powers are killing her, and her seemingly villainous actions stem from her quest to find a cure before its too late.

All of that is wildly different from her comic book counterpart. Though the character is new to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ghost has been around in the comics for more than 30 years, albeit in a very different form. As originally conceived, Ghost is a man, a tragic villain rather than antihero, and an enemy of Iron-Man rather than Ant-Man and the Wasp. Speaking to TheWrap, “Ant-Man and The Wasp” director Peyton Reed explained how and why he changed the character to fit into his corner of the MCU.

“We found Ghost and we were free to reinvent that character however we wanted, and obviously we made him into a her, but also made a character that really sat within the tone of our movie and the theme of fathers and daughters. It fit with our movie,” Reed told TheWrap.

“Ghost is a far lesser known antagonist in the comics world,” he continued. “I really dug the look of that character and the power set, but in terms of backstory or character in the comics, I didn’t find it very compelling, I thought it was kind of boring, so it really was sort of a chance to create a character from scratch for this movie that really had a personal connection to our heroes and particularly to Hank Pym and I liked that.”

Created in 1987 by David Michelinie and Bob Layton, Ghost first appeared in Iron-Man issue No. 219 “The Ghost and the Machine.” Unlike his MCU counterpart, this Ghost was was a successful data engineer for a major computer company, where he created GhostTech, a series of computer chips that could phase into an intangible state before overheating, while still functioning and holding an incredible amount of data.

Executives of the company where Ghost worked manipulated him in order to keep him productive and in return them wealthy. And to make a long story short, after Ghost finishes the GhostTech project, the company kills his girlfriend (who says villain backstories can’t have fridging?) and following a bout with depression, he implants GhostTech into his body, forming a cybernetic connection with the company’s systems. Discovering the truth behind his girlfriend’s death, he seeks revenge on the company’s executives before dedicating his villainy to sabotaging corporations.

“[We liked that] it could inform the thing that we’d set up in the first movie, which was, Hank Pym is a mentor but he’s also got some issues, right? He’s got some anger issues and, we set up that he doesn’t play well with others and that’s something that we sort of strengthened in this movie,” Reed said. “I like the idea that in this generational hero story there could be consequences, you know, the the results of the sins of the father could sort of come to revisit the child.

“I also like that we had our literal father-daughter stories with Scott [Lang] and Cassie and Hank [Pym] and Hope [Van Dyne] and maybe there could be a more sort of figurative father-daughter dynamic with Ava Starr, so for all those reasons it just felt like the right tone for our movie and the logical progression of our heroes.”